Margaret Hendry School has been turning heads for its non-traditional learning practices since it opened its doors in 2019.
Now the Taylor primary school has been recognised as one of the top 50 most innovative schools in Australia in 2020 by The Educator magazine.
Principal Kate Woods said staff were excited for the acknowledgement of their work in bringing the ACT's future of education strategy to life.
Instead of being divided into year levels, children at Margaret Hendry School belong to a learning neighbourhood of 150 students.
"For us, it's really about moving out of that old factory model where age is the determining factor of a child's placement and moving towards an opportunity for personalised and individualised instruction for children at that point of need," Ms Woods said.
"And we find that having multi-age, multi-stage approach to learning offers really authentic ways of connecting children with their learning throughout the course of the day."
The school currently has 500 students enrolled from its catchment of Taylor, Moncreiff and shared zone of Casey. That's expected to increase to 700 next year.
Education leaders from Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales have visited the school to share ideas on contemporary pedagogy.
Ms Woods said the remote learning period during the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in Australia was a defining time for the school and helped parents understand learning did not have to mean sitting in front of a screen all the time.
Students were presented with a range of inquiry-based tasks and built their own timetable.
For some parents, the school's playful approach to learning did not look like the schoolwork they were familiar with. But Ms Woods said once parents understood the evidence and benefits of this model they could see how the students were very engaged in their learning.
"It's getting them to really have the understanding that times are changing, expectations of the workforce are really shifting and therefore the skill sets that children need when they finish and come out of school are quite different to what they needed 50 years ago," Ms Woods said.
The design of the school reflected the student-driven learning styles. Instead of having one assigned classroom, children moved between spaces such as STEM learning areas, media studios and outdoor areas.
"I think there's a misconception that innovative design is a big open plan building where there's lots of noise reverberation and all sorts of things but it couldn't be further from the truth," Ms Woods said.
"It's a really flexible, dynamic workspace where you've got small adaptable studios, large adaptable studios, you've got big areas where large groups can connect, you have indoor and outdoor spaces that are activated for learning."
Margaret Hendry School was selected by The Educator's editorial panel from over 300 national entries.